Environment Yukon has ordered an emergency closure on caribou hunting to protect the Hart River caribou herd.
Starting Wednesday, the closure will cover the subzones along the Dempster Highway from Kilometre 77 (North Fork Pass) to Kilometre 195 (Ogilvie River Bridge).
The Hart herd is relatively tiny, with only about 2,200 animals. Normally at this time of year it mixes with the much larger Porcupine caribou herd which has about 197,000 animals.
That mingling provides the Hart caribou with some level of protection from being over-hunted, explained Environment Yukon’s northern region biologist, Mike Suitor. But it hasn’t happened this year.
“This area is an area where we have multiple caribou herds that do overlap. This year what we’re seeing is very minimal numbers of Porcupine caribou coming south.”
This year there are some Porcupine caribou in the Yukon, but very few, Suitor said. Environment Yukon’s tracking system shows that the majority of them are in Alaska.
“Right now in those zones you have probably as good a chance, if not a greater chance, of harvesting a Hart caribou than of harvesting a Porcupine caribou.”
The closure applies to resident and non-resident hunters. It does not apply to Tr’ondek Hwech’in or Na-cho Nyak Dun First Nation citizens, who have hunting rights under their land claim agreements.
Last year, these same subzones were also closed along with a few more to the south. That was to protect the Fortymile caribou from being hunted.
The Fortymile caribou aren’t anywhere near the area this year, Suitor said.
This year’s closure is in place until the end of July, but it could change if a large number of the Porcupine caribou decide to make an appearance in the area.
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org